ABC February Newsletter: New Proposals for Central Square and More Proof That Building Means More Affordability
Spring is in sight and ABC has been planning new work for 2016. We are considering initiatives and programs that will continue to inform citizens of the important challenges we face. In addition, with the master planning process now underway, watch this space for updates including ways you can get involved in the coming months. Stay tuned for more to come. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES Cambridge resident Patrick Barrett announced plans to renovate and convert 907 Main Street into a boutique hotel. Barrett expressed a desire to incorporate a residential component into the renovation, but ultimately zoning made it too difficult. This is a real world example of how outdated and restrictive zoning has lead to the housing crisis we face today. Regarding the current zoning, Barrett said, “There are sections of the ordinance that make residential builds infinitely more difficult than hotel or commercial in business districts. I could go for a variance for relief, but some of the neighborhood groups are ruthless and would ultimately land me in Superior Court. I cannot afford to spend two years fighting a case I'd likely lose,” Barrett said. – Cambridge Chronicle Cambridge released an online brochure on affordable housing programs and services available in the city.A Long Standing Commitment to Affordable HousingThe city has made its Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report available online. The report contains budgetary information and updates on city initiatives.City of Cambridge UPCOMING EVENTS The Massachusetts presidential primary election is Tuesday, March 1st. www.wheredoivotema.com LINKS OF INTEREST Report: Market-Rate Housing Construction is a Weapon Against Displacement In Some Cities, The Housing Construction Boom is Starting to Pay Off What Many Don’t Get About Affordable Housing: Filtering Washington Post: The Poor Are Better Off When We Build Housing for the Rich DID YOU KNOW? According to the CDD the 2014 median market rate sales price of a single family home in Cambridge was $1,200,000, for a two family $937,000, and for a condominium $575,000.
The Cambridge City Council has kicked off its new term. With big initiatives such as the master plan and the Volpe Center the next two years will be an exciting time for the city. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES CDD is seeking volunteers to serve on three working groups for the master plan titled Envision Cambridge. Applications are due January 22nd.CDDCambridge Chronicle The City Council approved the MXD Zoning Petition which will add one million square feet of development in Kendall Square. This will include approximately 560 residential units of which 140 will be below-market rent.Cambridge ChronicleBoston Globe The City Council approved a zoning petition initiated by Patrick Barrett that will make it easier for homeowners to create basement and accessory dwelling units.Cambridge ChronicleNew data from Reis, Inc. reports that rents in Greater Boston rose 5.7% in 2015. The average rent for an apartment is now $2,009.Boston Globe UPCOMING EVENTS The MBTA will be holding a public meeting regarding late-night service changes on Wednesday, January 20th at 6 pm at City Hall.City of Cambridge LINKS OF INTEREST The Problem With Too Much Parking How Zoning Laws Fuel Economic Segregation The Strongest Case Yet That Excessive Parking Causes More Driving NIMBY Obstruction and the Density Paradox DID YOU KNOW? As reported by the 2010 Census, 65.4% of housing units in Cambridge are rented while 34.6% are owner occupied (including owner occupied condominiums). Approximately 14% of the entire housing stock is subsidized in some form.
As the year ends Cambridge announces the results of the most recent round of participatory budgeting while the state takes a hard look at the Green Line extension. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES The city announced the results on how to spend $600,000 as voted on by residents. Bike infrastructure and transit signal prioritization for the No. 1 bus were the main recipients of the funds.Boston.com The state has begun the process of reevaluating the Green Line extension including cancelling current contracts. It is likely that the project will be scaled down significantly or possibly even cancelled due to cost concerns.Commonwealth MagazineBoston Globe Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies issued its annual report on the rental market. The report outlines the significant challenge in the rental market including lack of supply and increasing costs.Boston Globe Boston announced plans to double the affordable housing payments for developers in some neighborhoods.Boston Globe UPCOMING EVENTS The Cambridge Winter Farmers Market opens on Saturday, January 9th at the Cambridge Community Center.Cambridge Winter Farmers Market The Cambridge MLK Day of Service will take place on Monday, January 18th from 2-5 pm in Central Square.Many Helping Hands LINKS OF INTEREST Paul Krugman on Urban Inequality and Zoning Housing Overregulation: Liberals' Contribution to Inequality How Zoning Laws Exacerbate Inequality We Want More Walkable Neighborhoods - But Can Our Communities Deliver? DID YOU KNOW? Western Avenue was named as America’s best new bike lane for 2015 by the group People for Bikes.
The election is over and the holidays are approaching. ABC wishes you a happy Thanksgiving. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES Eight of the nine city councilors were reelected. Jan Devereux will replace Dennis Benzan in the next term. Full election results are available on Cambridge Civic Journal.Cambridge Civic Journal You can track proposed developments and provide feedback on projects using the coUrbanize website created by two MIT grads.coUrbanize The Boston Foundation released its annual Greater Boston Housing Report Card. According to the report, “We have failed to meet housing production targets because there is no way to do so given the high cost of producing housing for working and middle-income households. In part, this is because of the extreme barriers to new construction, especially in the form of severely restrictive zoning at the local level across much of Massachusetts.”Boston GlobeA survey by the Urban Land Institute of Millennials in Greater Boston found that, "80 percent of young professionals ranked access to public transit as 'very important' when choosing a place to live. More respondents said public transit was 'very important' than things such as nightlife, shopping, crime/safety and being able to walk to amenities."WBUR UPCOMING EVENTS The Cambridge Broadband Task Force will meet on Wednesday, November 18th from 6-8pm in the Ackerman Room at City Hall. The Ordinance Committee will conduct a public hearing on a petition filed by Patrick W. Barrett that seeks to simplify zoning around accessory units on Thursday, November 19th at 2 pm in the Sullivan Chamber.Zoning Petition Target will present at a meeting of the Central Square Advisory Committee on Thursday, November 19th at 5:30 pm at the Central Square Library LINKS OF INTEREST Our Houses Don't Fit Us Anymore How Land Use Regulation Undermines Affordable Housing Lessons From the Gentrification Wars Miami Takes Aim at Its Plethora of Parking DID YOU KNOW? A recent study by niche.com and featured on forbes.com which rated cities on a variety of factors including job opportunities, diversity, and commute ranked Cambridge as the best city for Millennials in the country.
Tomorrow is election day in Cambridge. Don’t forget to vote! Like you, ABC cares about the future of our great city. We believe that policies adopted by the next City Council will determine the course of our city for years to come. Over the past few months we’ve endeavored to present information, data, and opinion consistent with our understanding of the opportunities and challenges that lie in front of us in the coming years. As part of that effort we conducted a survey and analysis of the many candidates for City Council, which we hope you will find useful as you make final decisions about which candidates to vote for tomorrow: ABC Candidate Ratings & Survey Whether you agree with us or not, we encourage everyone to exercise their constitutional right to vote! Polls are open tomorrow from 7am to 8pm. If you’re not sure where your polling places is, visit http://wheredoivotema.com to find out.
Earlier this week I sent you an important message about ABC’s city council candidates survey and the priorities/goals that drove our analysis and candidate ratings. We hope this information will be an important guide as you make your decision about whom to vote for this coming Tuesday, November 3rd. In addition to our candidate information, I wanted to direct you to another resource that has just been posted on the Cambridge Chronicle website. Barry Bluestone, a distinguished economist and researcher who knows more about the Greater Boston housing market than perhaps anyone in our region, has written an editorial that clearly explains why we face such a housing crunch in Cambridge and what we can do to address this reality. Dr. Bluestone's article has serious implications for Tuesday’s election. http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/article/20151030/NEWS/151039609 For years, Dr. Bluestone has been a leader in helping our region understand the serious challenges we face when it comes to providing an adequate supply of housing to meet the significant demand by families of all income levels. Since 2002 he has been the primary author of the yearly “Greater Boston Housing Report Card”, published by the Boston Foundation, which last year drew attention to a serious challenge facing all residents of our region, especially those living in poverty: people are paying a greater percentage of their income on housing — “a situation which must change if we are to give everyone a chance to succeed and thrive in our community” according to the Boston Foundation. Dr. Bluestone's letter represents his personal views, which, like ABC's candidate ratings, are provided for informational purposes. A Better Cambridge has not endorsed any candidates in this election. Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. Need to know where your polling place is? Visit: http://wheredoivotema.com.
Election day is one week away. When you vote for the next city council on Tuesday, November 3rd, we hope you’ll use ABC’s candidate ratings and questionnaire as a guide. Our city is at a critical crossroads. Cambridge, with its many virtues, has become an increasingly attractive place to live. Coupled with our underproduction of housing for the last decade, this demand has also made Cambridge more attractive to developers seeking to maximize profit. This reality brings with it many challenges to the character of our city and to the diversity of our community. We believe this reality also provides an opportunity that can be leveraged to preserve our diversity and build a more vibrant city for all residents. In September, ABC hosted a public discussion with three experts in affordable housing and development to understand the challenges and opportunities facing Cambridge. The consensus was clear: Cambridge must add substantially to the current housing stock in order to meet demand and slow the precipitous increase in housing prices: We must be certain that this increase in housing produces as many affordable units, including middle income and family housing, as is economically feasible. With affordable units required by inclusionary zoning and subsidized by market rate rents, together with units produced by the city working with our housing nonprofits using city parking lots and increased linkage fees, we can make substantial inroads in providing affordable housing. Building more housing in areas with substantial public transportation, transportation that needs to grow as our region grows, close to large areas of employment will create transit oriented communities. These communities, where people can shop, work, play and live with the least amount of car usage, are the future of a sustainable Cambridge. Facing both a climate crisis and a housing crisis, the time for Cambridge to embrace this future is now. These are the issues that guide the ABC city council candidate questionnaire and ratings -- A higher rating demonstrates a candidate’s alignment with the ABC goals and priorities. With these issues in mind, we hope these ratings will be an important tool in your decision about who to vote for next Tuesday. These ratings are our best attempt at a fair assessment but there is always an element of subjectivity in ratings. Judge for yourself by reading full text of the candidates responses. If you find these ratings useful, we urge you to share with friends, family, neighbors and colleagues.
With the election approaching ABC encourages everyone to attend our City Council Candidates Forum hosted by WBUR’s Robin Young on Thursday, October 15th at 6:30 pm. The event takes place at the Broad Institute at 415 Main Street. DEVELOPMENT UPDATES A Better Cambridge released its City Council Candidate Ratings. The ratings are based on a comprehensive questionnaire distributed to all 23 candidates to measure their level of agreement with key ABC priorities and goals. Higher rated candidates demonstrate a strong understanding of the complex housing and development challenges facing Cambridge today. They are best prepared to make Cambridge a more affordable and livable city for all residents, especially low-income families. To view the ratings and the complete questionnaire click on the link below. ABC Candidate Ratings ABC hosted an affordable housing forum on September 26th, bringing together three statewide housing experts to discuss solutions to the housing crisis facing the region. A recap of the forum, along with a video of the event can be found here. Jesse Kanson-Benanav wrote an op-ed in the Cambridge Chronicle summarizing the event.Cambridge ChronicleThe City Council voted to triple the linkage fee to $12 a square foot for new commercial development with a $1 increase each year for the next three years. These fees help to preserve and create affordable housing in the city. Cambridge Chronicle According to new Census Bureau figures, the Greater Boston area has the second tightest rental market in the nation, with a vacancy rate of only 2.6%.Boston Globe UPCOMING EVENTS ABC is sponsoring a housing forum for the City Council candidates on Thursday, October 15th from 6:30 – 9:30 pm. The event will take place at the Broad Institute at 415 Main Street and will be moderated by Robin Young from WBUR’s Here and Now. The City Council election is Tuesday, November 3rd. Don’t forget to Vote. The deadline for voter registration is Wednesday, October 14th. You can register to vote here.City of Cambridge Don’t know where to vote? Visit wheredoivotema.com to find out.The City’s Broadband Task Force will be holding an interactive Community Input Forum to gather community insights on how broadband service in Cambridge can be improved Wednesday, October 14, from 6-8 p.m., at Cambridge City Hall, Sullivan Chamber, 795 Massachusetts Avenue. LINKS OF INTEREST There is No Such Thing As a City That Has Run Out of Room Boston Defies the Laws of Housing Physics For Renters, a Bleak Future This Woman Has a Plan to Fix San Francisco’s Affordable Housing Crisis – But Homeowners Won’t Like It DID YOU KNOW? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in Cambridge increased 40% in the last decade.
In an effort to help Cambridge voters make informed choices in the upcoming city council election, ABC is pleased to announce our 2015 city council candidate ratings. These ratings are based on a comprehensive questionnaire distributed to all 23 candidates to measure their level of agreement with key ABC priorities and goals. Higher rated candidates demonstrate a strong understanding of the complex housing and development challenges facing Cambridge today. They are best prepared to make Cambridge a more affordable and livable city for all residents, especially low-income families. With a total maximum score of 45 points, the ABC candidate ratings are: Leland Cheung 45 Marc McGovern 41 David Maher 40 Denise Simmons 40 Dennis Benzan 37 Craig Kelley 30 John Sanzone* 30 Tim Toomey 30 Mariko Davidson 29 Gregg Moree 16 Nadeem Mazen 13 Minka vanBeuzekom 12 Jan Devereux 8 Romaine Waite 3 James Williamson 2 Paul Mahoney 1 Mike Connolly -3 Kim Courtney -4 Gary Mello -5 Plinio Degoes -8 Click the image below to view a table summarizing details of the candidate ratings: Click the image below to view each candidate's full responses to our questionnaire, including ABC's analysis and a description of our methodology: Candidates not listed above did not respond to the ABC candidate survey. * As of October 26th, John Sanzone has withdrawn as a candidate for City Council. Continue reading
While Cambridge’s real estate market booms and population is expected to grow in the coming decade, low and middle-income families in our city still struggle with unaffordable and rising housing costs. How can we ensure that new development in Cambridge serves the housing needs of all families including those with lower incomes? How does this relate to other important development issues -- density, walking/biking/public transit, parking, and creating exciting, walkable neighborhoods? On Saturday, September 26th A Better Cambridge brought together experts to discuss what Cambridge can do to build a more diverse and affordable city for all families. Click here for a recap of the forum by ABC Chairman Jesse Kanson-Benanav. A full recording of the panel discussion is included below: The panel was moderated by Dante Ramos, Op-Ed Columnist for the Boston Globe. Panelists from left to right include: Andre Leroux, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance Aaron Gornstein, President/CEO of Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) & former Massachusetts Undersecretary for Housing & Community Development Ed Marchant, affordable housing development consultant and Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Materials used in the presentation include: PowerPoint presentation by Andre Leroux Development finance sheets used by Ed Marchant